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'Noncurriculum-related' and 'curriculum-related' clubs have different legal rights

On Board Online • August 14, 2017

Anthony S. Deluca
Law Offices of Thomas M. Volz, PLLC

The federal Equal Access Act guarantees certain school access rights to student clubs that are "noncurriculum-related" but does not confer the same rights on "curriculum-related" clubs. What's the difference between the two types of clubs?

This is a judgment call that school officials should make on a case-by-case basis with their school attorneys when questions of access arise. But court decisions provide guidance and examples of both kinds of clubs.

"A group directly relates to a school's curriculum if the group's subject matter is actually taught, or will soon be taught, in a regularly offered course; if that subject matter concerns the body of courses as a whole; or if participation in the group is required for a particular course or results in academic credit," according the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Board of Education of Westside Community Schools v. Mergens (1990).


In the coming school year, you may need a policy on kids without lunch money

On Board Online • August 14, 2017

By Courtney Sanik
Senior Policy Consultant

Countless numbers of school food service operations have an accounts payable problem: kids don't have their lunch money or a zero balance on their electronic account. But students need to eat, and their academic performance and health can suffer if they don't.

Don't be surprised if this issue comes before your school board. A unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture called the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) is now requiring school districts (as "school food authorities" for federal school food programs) to adopt policies addressing the charging of school meals and unpaid meal charges. This requirement takes effect in the 2017 - 2018 school year i.e., by July 1. Parents must be notified annually about the policy.


Faced with an Everest of state aid challenges, districts enlist Sherpas who know the terrain

On Board Online • August 14, 2017

Alan Wechsler
Special Correspondent


The William Floyd School District is one of the largest districts in Suffolk County. Named after a signer of the Declaration of Independence, William Floyd is one of the districts on Long Island that is most reliant on state aid: nearly half of its yearly $236 million budget comes from various state funds.

According to David Beggins, assistant superintendent for business, filing for state aid involves a mountain of paperwork, and it's easy for a district to fail to document everything it should.

That's why the district has been working with a NYSSBA business partner, School Aid Specialists, which specializes in state aid recovery.


What makes a school building project an aesthetic and environmental success?

On Board Online • August 14, 2017

By Timothy Bonaparte

Imagine you are touring a brand new school building. Inside, it has a creative layout and an attractive interior design. Outside, there is a beautiful facade.

But what if you had to park a quarter mile away? What if there were no sidewalks and big puddles because of an absence of infrastructure to manage storm water runoff? And what if there was nothing green in sight?

Site design and environmental sustainability are as important in school building projects as building design and construction.


Schools cannot engage in 'viewpoint discrimination' when students wish to form political, religious clubs

On Board Online • August 14, 2017

by the New York StateAssociation of School Attorneys

Divisive political issues have been splitting the nation, and many Americans have responded by joining political organizations or forming their own. When public school students decide to form groups with a political, religious or philosophical perspective, it is important for school leaders to know their legal obligations when responding to requests from student groups to meet or raise funds on school grounds.

A federal law called the Equal Access Act prohibits schools from engaging in a kind of bias sometimes called "viewpoint discrimination."


Districts welcome tuition-paying students

On Board Online • July 24, 2017

By Merri Rosenberg
Special Correspondent

Looking to boost their enrollment numbers this fall, some districts are putting out the welcome mat for out-of-district families who are willing to pay tuition of $10,000 to $25,000 per child.

On YouTube, the Tuxedo school district has a promotional video that ends with the message: "Now open to non-district students" and "Enroll your student today!" The Orange County district charges $14,312 for non-resident students in grades 7-12.


Early adopters praise computer-based testing

On Board Online • July 24, 2017

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

An estimated 28,000 elementary and middle school students in nearly 200 schools around New York took their state math and English language arts tests on computers this spring, and officials in those districts said their students took to the new format with ease.

This is first year that computer-based test (CBT) scores will count toward statewide grade 3-8 test results.

"It went extremely well," said Lisa Mato, director of special programs and data reporting for the Longwood school district on Long Island, where about half the students who took the ELA tests for grades 3, 5 and 7 in selected schools used computers.


Mayoral control extended; SUNY makes charter deal

On Board Online • July 24, 2017

By Julie M. Marlette
Director of Governmental Relations

The last week of June in the state Capitol was filled with an eerie sense of deja vu. The legislative session officially had ended, yet all the players were back in the building, having the same conversations as the week before.

The reason? Gov. Andrew Cuomo had summoned the Legislature to re-convene for a mandatory "extraordinary session."


NYS readies ESSA plan for feds

On Board Online • July 24, 2017

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The state Board of Regents is getting closer to sending the state's Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) school accountability plan to the federal government before a Sept. 18 deadline.

The 201-page plan refers to the "important role that locally elected school boards have in improving student outcomes" and pledges that the state will provide boards with "critical data ... to spearhead improvement and promote equity both within districts and between districts."


Reading attitudes, but not skills, rise with canine companionship

On Board Online • July 24, 2017

By Gayle Simidian
Research Analyst

If you are looking to improve primary school students' enthusiasm for reading, consider bringing a dog into the classroom. But don't expect big changes in reading ability, according to a recent study by the Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction at Tufts University.

They wanted to measure how reading aloud to dogs in school affected reading competencies and attitudes about reading in a controlled study.


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